2010 AMA GRAND NATIONAL CHAMPION JAKE JOHNSON
his Honda at
the Peoria TT.
The possibility of Johnson winning the 2010 AMA
Grand National Championship seemed remote even
late in the season. With six races to go, Johnson recalls
that rival Joe Kopp had an 18-point lead. Johnson remembers he set a goal of trying to chip away at Kopp’s
lead – “I needed to make up three points a race for six
races and that would be the 18 points,” Johnson said.
At Springfield in September, Johnson did what he set
out to do, finishing ahead of Kopp in both the Short
Track and Mile Nationals, and getting the gap down to a
manageable 10 points.
Then at the Canterbury Park Mile in Minneapolis,
the championship chase was turned upside down in an
instant: Johnson finished second to Kenny Coolbeth
while Kopp suffered a DNF, the victim of a chain popping off his Ducati.
“Suddenly I went from 10 points down to 10 points
Suzuki gave Johnson a factory ride in 2005
and he rode for them through the 2009
season when the economy forced the team
to pull out of the series.
up,” the 26-year-old Johnson recalls.
That’s when the sleepless nights began.
“There was really no pressure on me trying to come
from behind, because I had nothing to lose,” John-
son explained. “Once I got the lead a million things go
through your mind. You still want to go out and do good,
but you don’t want to take any chances and crash and
totally blow it.”
With rain forcing the cancellation of the penultimate
round in Iowa, the title all came down to the October
season finale on the Yavapai Downs Mile in Prescott
Valley, Arizona. Instead of playing it safe and going for
a conservative finish, everything came together and in
the final Johnson decided to go for the win on his Za-
notti Racing Harley-Davidson XR750.
“Jared [Mees], Sammy [Halbert] and I got out front
and were drafting back and forth,” Johnson said. “It got